Monday, April 5, 2010
I always knew that my father was a risk-taker. He was a paratrooper in the armed services and earned the purple heart medal. He had an enterprenuerial spirit and owned his own business. He also taught himself to waterski although he never learned to swim. One would think that swimming would be a pre-requisite to waterskiing, maybe not. My brother is also an adverturer / explorer. He enjoys traveling the world and has a plan to see the 8 wonders of the world before he dies. Now he's only 63 so this is a lifelong goal he should be able to accomplish.
My grandfather died when I was about 5 yrs old,
so I really don't know much about him, but I imagine he must have had an adventurous spirit. I know that once he got his picture in the paper because he grew a banana tree in his back yard, something that was quite uncommon in the area in which he lived. I am told that sometime in the 1930's he moved is family of eight from California to Texas carrying all their belongings in a pick-up truck and a trailer. The baby, my aunt, was riding with her parents in the cab of the pick-up. My dad and his two older brothers were in the bed of the pick-up and the two oldest sisters, who were 12 and 14, were riding on the trailer. (Remember, it was the 1930's!) On their journey they were going around a mountain and somehow the trailer with the two oldest girls came unhitched from the truck and went over the mountain, killing the two girls. Can you imagine the heartbreak of this family? Can you imagine the guilt and pain that my grandfather must have suffered over this tragic event?
An experience like that has a way of changing a person. Even though I don't know much about my grandfather, I understand that he was known as a "hard" man. I imagine that this experience must have had a huge impact on his life. I imagine that it probably changed the way he parented his remaining 3 sons and only daughter. He probably felt like a failure as a father and set high expectations for himself and his family. If he was angry with himself, it probably translated into alot of anger with everyone around him and may have affected all of his relationships.
Now my dad, the youngest of the 3 boys, was an extremely loving man, who also had very strong perfectionistic tendencies. He liked things done right and he strived for excellence in everything he attempted. He enjoyed people and having the approval of others. Pleasing people was probably what drove him to excell in everything he did. He was often described as the type of person who would "give you the shirt off his back". I suspect that some of these qualities (setting high expectations, seeking the approval of others) were formed in him by my grandfather's example. It's also possible that some of the negative characteristics of anger, guilt, shame, and self-condemnation were passed along to him as well. That was evident by the fact that my father spent the majority of his adult life fighting an addiction to alchohol. Who knows, maybe he felt he never had the love and approval of his father.
Now me, being a woman, I am more of a risk-taker when it comes to people and relationships. I have found that when I encounter a new situation, I always tell myself "Not this time. I'm not going to trust people so much. I'm not going to allow myself to get too close." And yet, I always end up letting go, taking the risk, and as a result often end up experiencing some measure of hurt or pain along the journey. But the fact that I tend to take risks in getting to know people has also allowed me to experience some really wonderful relationships that I might not otherwise have known if I had not allowed myself to "test the waters".
When I first started learning to swim, I refused to put my head under water. I went to classes at the Red Cross day after day and my mother said "We're not coming back if you don't put your head under water." So the next day I did, and after that I was like a fish, I didn't want to come up for air. Now I never really became what you would call a swimmer, but I did gain a healthy respect for water and learned to float, and navigate in the water well enough so that I would not drown. But what I learned most from this experience was that taking a risk, even though it can be quite scary at first, sometimes brings you a great deal of pleasure.
Sometimes I think I approach relationships like I did the water. First I say, "No, not going there", and then once I get to know someone it's like "Come on in, the water's fine!" Then I discover myself floating out into deeper water and suddenly something happens that reminds me that I'm not really that good of a swimmer. It's then that I begin to panic and feel like I am drowning. Instead of calmly remembering what to do, and who is in control, I struggle with all my might to find my way back to safety again. And then I repeat the whole process saying "No, not ever going out there again, I'll just wade here along the shore."
I have found that in forming relationships it's very easy for us to set high expectations that people have a hard time living up to. Inevitably, our own unmet expectations will end up leaving us disappointed and feeling like the relationship is a failure, which in turn can make us feel that we are a failure .... which leads to guilt, which leads to self-condemnation, etc. It becomes a vicious cycle. One that I don't care to repeat. I think that understanding how my grandfather and father were willing to take risks, and struggled with the some of the same issues (anger, guilt, shame, self-condemnation) that I struggle with today helps me learn that I need to seek comfort and safety and begin trusting God to keep me afloat in the vast ocean of relationships. After all, He is my rock and my salvation!
I am learning that the hurtful events or experiences we have in our past, either as a child or an adult, will continue be a weakness in our lives if we don't allow God to bring healing to them. Turning our past over to Him and allowing Him to reframe it into a beautiful masterpiece is worth the risk. And as you can tell, I am a risk-taker!
Psalm 62:1-2, 5-6 says ...
My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
Romans 8:1 says ....THEREFORE, [there is] now no condemnation (no adjudging guilty of wrong) for those who are in Christ Jesus, who live [and] walk not after the dictates of the flesh, but after the dictates of the Spirit.